Opinion: Worthy of our thanks

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Published: 11/24/2022 6:00:25 AM
Modified: 11/24/2022 6:00:15 AM

John Buttrick of Concord can be reached at johndbuttrick@gmail.com.

There was a time, fifty years ago, when we used to travel to the family farm for Thanksgiving. The gathered family was multi-generational with conflicting political, religious, and cultural commitments. However, we were able to unify around the table burdened with 14 serving dishes holding 14 different vegetables from the garden and a huge roasted turkey filled with homemade stuffing.

Displayed on a side table were multiple desserts: pies, cakes, puddings, fruits and the promise of ice cream. When everyone was seated, a hush descended over this tableau. “Well, Lord, we give you thanks…” Without introduction, the family elder began his conversational prayer to the ever-present God. He included thanks for family members, neighbors, their pastor, the bounty of the farm, the nation, and of course the food set before us. The religious beliefs of those gathered around the table were diverse. The thanksgiving was universally affirmed.

Today, the plight of our country and the world in which we live may silence the voice of Thanksgiving. I’m finding it impossible to give thanks for life in my country and in the wide world filled with war and rumors of war and with millions of refugees fleeing from their ravaged homelands. There are no thanks for those without table or food.

I find no thanks for the perpetual persistent division threatening our political, social, and cultural well-being. Nor is there a place for thanksgiving for bullying, lies, guns and riots trending to become acceptable normal conduct. There is no place for thanks for weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. The Thanksgiving table groans under this painful reality. There may be “no room at the inn” for Thanksgiving this year.

Of course, the door to the inn is still open for those of us who are privileged. We still have a place at the table to give thanks for our good fortune, family, and friends. However, the food leaves a bad taste as our prayers are invaded with words and thoughts like, “We give thanks that we are not like one of these who suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

Yet, perhaps the realities of a demented world have blinded me to other realities. At the Thanksgiving table perhaps, breaking bread with family and friends may open my eyes to another world of peace, justice, and goodwill toward all people.

As I give thanks to those who pass the bread, I may also remember to give thanks to Doctors without Borders who travel to nations of desperate people afflicted by war, power-hungry leaders, and natural disasters. They administer health care and teach healing skills to others. I may remember to give thanks for the people supporting and working in Friendly Kitchen, supporting and working for Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, and supporting Family Promise of Greater Concord.

As the bread is passed, I may remember to give thanks for Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Black Lives Matter movement. I may give thanks to the Carter Center, with a “fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering, the Center seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.”

When the bread is passed across the Thanksgiving table I may remember and give thanks for the World Council of Churches Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, and The United Nations Relief and Works Agency. I may give thanks to Heifer International “seeking to end poverty and hunger while caring for the earth.” I may give thanks to the workers and volunteers of Global Ministries joining with global and local partners to work for justice, reconciliation and peace.

This list is only a tiny sampling of the actions by people around the world to build a more humane world. Every reader can make their own list to add to the movement. I’m convinced that these people, movements, and organizations far outnumber and have a far greater influence than all of the conspiracy theorists, supremacists, and liars that are covered in the daily news.

Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and 486 other hate groups may have the visibility through the press and social media, but the millions of quiet humanitarian volunteers and the thousands of healers of people and the earth sit at our Thanksgiving tables, worthy of our thanks.

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